Friday, December 26, 2014

"Prosecutors indict vagina artist on obscenity charges"

Text from Japan Today, 12/25/14:

Japanese prosecutors on Wednesday charged a feminist artist who makes objects shaped like her own vagina with distributing “obscene” data, according to her lawyer, in a case that has sparked accusations that authorities are out of touch.

The charges follow Megumi Igarashi’s arrest this month after she raised funds online to pay for a genital-shaped kayak which she made on a 3D printer.

“We don’t agree with the prosecutors’ contention at all,” Takeshi Sumi, one of Igarashi’s lawyers, told AFP Wednesday.

“We will continue pleading not guilty on behalf of Igarashi, who argues her works are not anything obscene,” Sumi said.

Read the whole article:

Click here for past VAOJ coverage.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A moving photo: "Frozen memorial"

Photo and text from The Japan News, 11/28/14.

A shrine and lodge are covered with snow and ice Thursday atop Mt. Ontake, which erupted two months ago. Fifty-seven people were killed and six are still missing in the disaster on the mountain, which straddles the prefectures of Nagano and Gifu. The search for victims was discontinued in mid-October and is scheduled to resume in spring next year.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

"Osaka court rules tattoo check on city employees illegal"

Sometimes the courts do the right thing... Story from Japan Today, 12/18/14:

The Osaka District Court has ruled that Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s order to check whether municipal office workers had tattoos was illegal and constituted an invasion of privacy.

The court handed down the ruling on Wednesday in a damages suit filed by a 56-year-old city bus driver, Tadasu Yasuda, who was transferred to a desk job after he refused to answer questions on whether or not he had a tattoo, Sankei Shimbun reported Thursday. Presiding Judge Kenji Nakagaito invalidated the transfer and ordered the Osaka municipal government to pay Yasuda 1.1 million yen in damages.

The judge said ordering employees to reveal if they have tattoos or not encroached on individuals’ privacy and carried a risk of creating workplace discrimination. The court also ruled that the plaintiff should be reinstated to his previous position as a bus driver.

The tattoo check, which was requested by Hashimoto in May 2012, involved 35,000 city employees who were asked to reply in writing. Of those who answered, 114 said they did have tattoos on their arms or legs, while six refused to disclose whether they had any tattoos or not, Sankei reported. Those six, including Yasuda, were subjected to disciplinary action. Yasuda said later that he did not have a tattoo, but refused to cooperate with the investigation because he felt it was an invasion of his privacy.

When he launched his anti-tattoo campaign, Hashimoto said at the time that “citizens feel uneasy or intimidated if they see tattoos (on workers) in services and it undermines trust in the city.”

Although small tattoos are now a common means of self-expression in Japan and are no longer indicative of gang membership, Hashimoto threatened to dismiss any city worker who has tattoos. “We need to have possession of this information. Anyone who doesn’t respond to the survey should be reported to HR and passed over for future promotion. This all goes without saying,” Hashimoto said.

Japanese media reported that Hashimoto first brought up the issue after learning that a worker at a children’s home threatened kids by showing them his tattoos.


Click here for previous VAOJ coverage of this story.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"Sea Shepherd files complaint against police to protect Cove Guardian volunteers"

More about "The Cove" from Japan Today, 12/17/14:

A Japanese attorney based in Tokyo has sent a formal letter, on behalf of his client Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, to the Shingu and Wakayama City Police, countering accusations from the police departments that Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardian volunteers violated Japanese law by following a truck on public roads and taking photographs to document the transportation of dolphins for captivity.

Sea Shepherd said in a press release that the formal letter is the beginning of legal action to protect the basic constitutional rights of Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardian volunteers on the ground in Japan.

On Nov 21, Cove Guardian volunteers followed a truck holding dolphins in crates, as the cetaceans captured in Taiji’s hunt were being transferred for captivity at an aquarium or marine park. The Cove Guardians say they complied with Japanese law to ensure the safety of all involved.

However, police approached the volunteers on Nov 22 and told them that following the truck is an offense under “Minor Offense Law.” On the morning of Dec 9, police also told the Cove Guardians that photographs taken Dec 8 outside a location that purchases dolphin meat were taken in violation of Wakayama city ordinance. The police warned the Sea Shepherd volunteers that if they attempt these activities again, they will face arrest.

Sea Shepherd’s attorney has notified the police departments that the Cove Guardians acted within the basic rights guaranteed by Japan’s constitution. The formal letter states (translated into English), “These activities are to investigate the truth and to record it, as it is guaranteed by our constitution article 21-1 ‘Freedom of Expression’ and it is not at all ‘illegal.’ Therefore we demand that you notify us, which actions would apply to which law, the number of articles, etc. in a precise manner within two weeks after receiving this letter. If we do not receive your reply, then we will conclude that you have admitted that you did an illegal action of impeding their freedom of expression.”

Each year since the beginning of Sea Shepherd’s Operation Infinite Patience campaign in 2010, the Cove Guardians have been on the ground in Taiji throughout the entire six-month annual hunt season, documenting the capture and slaughter of dolphins and small whales, and live streaming these atrocities for the world to see.

Sea Shepherd Senior Cove Guardian Campaign Leader, Melissa Sehgal was denied entry into Japan this month to document the slaughter, despite never violating the law during her four seasons in Taiji. She was sent home on Dec 8 — the same day the Cove Guardians were being monitored by police — after nine hours of interrogation and an overnight stay in a holding cell on Dec 7.

“Sea Shepherd promised that our Cove Guardian volunteers will always act in accordance with Japanese law, and we have continued to honor that promise. We want to ensure that the Cove Guardians are able to return to Taiji until the slaughter ends,” said Sehgal. “I am hopeful that this beginning of legal action will not only protect the rights of our volunteers on the ground, but also help us to be even more effective in our efforts for the dolphins and whales.”


No matter how one feels about the dolphin/whale issues, it seems these Cove Guardians are a bit naive about Japanese law. Laws other than those in the constitution apply, which include those dealing with photographing without consent, nuisance and portrait rights.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

2014 Kanji of the Year: 税 (tax)

Photo and text from Japan Today, 12/12/14.

The kanji character “zei” (税) meaning “tax,” has been chosen as the character best representing the sentiment and events in Japan in 2014.

The Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation, a Kyoto-based organization that promotes kanji, conducts the survey nationwide every year. The foundation said 167,613 submissions were received this year, with “zei” being the most popular, garnering 8,679 votes.

In an event held on Friday, Seihan Mori, the head priest at the world-famous Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, drew the character with a large calligraphy brush, whose bristles were the size of a bowling pin, on a huge piece of “washi” (Japanese paper).

The character of “zei” was chosen following months of coverage by the media about the hike in the sales tax last April 1 and the debate over when to increase the sales tax again.

The second most popular character was 熱, meaning fever, a reference to the sporting passion that gripped Japan this year with the Sochi Olympics, World Cup soccer and Kei Nishikori’s success on the tennis court. Fever also referred to the Ebola outbreak. The third most popular kanji was 嘘, meaning lie, referring to many political scandals and the claims of a stem cell researcher.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

"Return of signing urged at DisneySea"

From The Japan News, 12/10/14:

At Tokyo DisneySea in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, an aquatic show called “The Legend of Mythica,” that was accompanied with a sign language performance came to an end in September. However, there have been growing requests for a restart of the show from hearing-impaired people.

DisneySea began introducing the special performance, in which cast members convey the story’s outline and characters’ lines through sign language, in July 2004 with the hope that people with hearing disabilities could fully enjoy the show. The performance was continued even after the show’s contents changed, and many hearing-impaired people visited DisneySea for the show from all over the nation.

The show was terminated as the theme park’s entertainment programs were set to be renewed. Though other attractions have services such as captions for narration, only the aquatic show offered the sign language performance, which enables people with hearing difficulties to enjoy the show without taking their eyes off the show itself. These visitors are requesting the sign language performance be restarted.

The Institute Real Desire for Rare Disease Supporters, an incorporated association based in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward, has been conducting a signature-collecting campaign and seeking supporters with a goal to collect 10,000 signatures by year-end.

“We appreciate the request as valuable input,” an employee at the public relations division of Oriental Land Co., which operates DisneySea, said. “We ended the aquatic show to expand seasonal events. We would like to consider introducing the sign language performance into another attraction.”

Question: Why is the Institute Real Desire for Rare Disease Supporters leading the campaign? Is deafness a rare disease?


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Very sad news: Stella Young passes away

VAOJ is extremely shocked and saddened by the news of Stella Young passing away on Saturday. Young was a comedian, broadcaster and prominent disability activist who told it like it was. I found her and the term inspiration porn (which she explains very well in her TED Talk) while researching representations of deaf and disabled people. To say she will be missed is a huge understatement. Condolences to her family and friends.

News coverage at BBC News:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"Vagina kayak artist (re)arrested in Japan"

Photo and text from Japan Today, 12/4/14.

An artist who made a kayak modeled on her own vagina was arrested in Japan on Wednesday, police said, in a case that has sparked accusations of censorship.

Megumi Igarashi, who calls herself Rokude Nashiko—offensive slang which loosely translates as “reprobate child”—was arrested in July for trying to raise funds online to pay for the construction of a kayak, using a 3D printer, inspired by her genitals.

She was released days later following a legal appeal and after thousands of people signed a petition demanding her freedom.

But on Wednesday, Igarashi was re-arrested on suspicion of sending a link “that shows her plan to create a boat using three-dimensional obscene data to a large number of people,” a Tokyo police spokeswoman told AFP.

She “tried to have those people who were willing to finance her plan download the 3D obscene data” in October last year, the spokeswoman said.

Igarashi also allegedly sold CD-ROMs containing similar data during a May exhibition in Tokyo.

“I don’t believe my vagina is anything obscene,” Igarashi said in a July press conference after her release, adding: “I was determined I would never yield to police power.”

Sex toy shop manager Minori Watanabe, 44, was also arrested for “displaying obscene goods in her shop window in collusion with Igarashi” from around October last year until July, police said.

Japan has a notoriously vibrant pornography industry that caters to a vast array of tastes.

However, its obscenity laws still forbid the depiction of actual genitalia, which usually appear censored or pixellated in images and videos.

If convicted of distributing, or holding obscene materials for the purpose of selling, Igarashi could receive up to two years in jail and/or a fine of as much as 2.5 million yen.


See also: (in Japanese).

UPDATE! (from Japan Today, 12/9/14):

"Sex shop owner freed; vagina artist still held"

A sex shop owner arrested along with a artist who makes objects shaped like her own vagina has been released from Japanese police custody, lawyers said Monday, after the courts refused to extend her detention.

In a case which sparked accusations that Tokyo’s police are overbearing and out of touch, Minori Watanabe, 44, also a writer and feminist activist, was freed after prosecutors failed to persuade a judge to sanction extended questioning.

Watanabe, whose boutique is aimed at women, was arrested last week for “displaying obscene goods in her shop window”.

Her lawyer Ichiro Muraki said she was freed on Saturday after two days’ detention, in a rare case of a court siding with a suspect.

Detectives arrested Watanabe—who is known in Japan under the nom-de-plume Minori Kitahara—on the same day as they took artist Megumi Igarashi into custody for the second time this year on charges relating to a genital-shaped kayak she made on a 3D printer.

Igarashi was still being held on Monday, with her defense lawyers waiting for judges to rule on whether she should remain behind bars.

“She is banned from receiving visits except from her lawyers,” her attorney Takeshi Sumi said.

“She is being accused of different but similar counts from the last time, which all date back before her previous arrest” in July, he said. “It is baffling why police had to arrest her again.”


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Visual Anthropology at the 2014 AJJ Fall Meeting

The 2014 Anthropology of Japan in Japan Fall Meeting will take place at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan on Saturday, November 29 and Sunday, November 30.

Click here for instructions to access Nanzan University.

Below is information on VAOJ events that might be of interest to visual anthropologists:

An Introduction to Visual Anthropology (Guest Lecture)

This lecture/workshop will examine visual anthropology, especially in the Japanese context, through a deconstruction of the term and an exploration of “the visual,” “visualization” and “anthropology.” We will then perform a reconstruction and consider the origins and functions of visual anthropology. Visual anthropology is more than using cameras and the passive viewing of images. Theoretical concerns such as the relationship(s) between the visual anthropologist, subjects and audience will be discussed. Finally, the challenges of doing visual anthropology will be presented through a proposed set of guidelines for “shooting culture” (both photography and film) in Japan.

R Building - Room R33
Saturday, November 29, 1:30-2:45 PM

Inspiration Porn and Representations of Deaf People in Japan (Paper Presentation)

This paper will deal with so-called "inspiration porn" and its relationship to disability identities with a focus on deaf people in Japan. Inspiration porn can be described as the idealization of disabled people “overcoming” -- doing common everyday life tasks (e.g. riding a train, having a job) or for achievements that have nothing to do with their particular disability (e.g. deaf athletes). Cross-cultural examples, observations and perspectives will be discussed to set up an exploration of how disabled and deaf people are portrayed in various media. Japanese deaf people are often critical of the representations of deaf protagonists and characters in popular television dramas and movies. Such representations create strong but inaccurate images of deafness and sign language that ultimately serve to perpetuate deficit models of disability. On the other hand, representations of disabled/deaf people themselves as seen on NHK programs such as Baribara (Barrier Free Variety Show) and the “Deaf People” corner of Minna no Shuwa (Everyone’s Sign Language) challenge and add to a social welfare discourse with abled (bodied) Japanese and their (re)evaluations of who or what makes up contemporary mainstream society.

R Building - Room R51
Saturday, November 29, 3:00-4:15 PM

There are many more interesting presentations, lectures and film screenings on both days.
For more information about the AJJ Fall 2014 Meeting:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

2014 秋祭り (Fall Festival)

Apologies for another late post. A month ago I participated in my neighborhood's fall festival as I have been doing for a few years now. It was another wonderful time and a great opportunity for photos. However this year the number of participants decreased so my pushing the heavy danjiri was more valued than my photographic efforts. Still the two day festival was successful in bringing people from the neighborhood together. On the second day three neighborhoods came together to share their respective performances (taiko drums, flutes, umbrella dances). After the performances there was a mochi rice cake throwing event. I got pelted twice - a lesson of the dangers of spending too much time looking through the viewfinder... Community cooperation and communitas felt great even with sore muscles from navigating the danjiri.

2013 Fall Festival:

2012 Fall Festival:

2010 Fall Festival:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

New Guess Fashion Campaign Features Japan...

Text from

This holiday season, GUESS introduces its new advertising campaign shot in Japan by acclaimed photographer, Chen Man. Set against the breathtaking backdrops of Mount Fuji and the fields of Tokyo, the campaign is a unique pairing of Eastern and Western cultures that juxtaposes traditional Japanese surroundings against GUESS’ contemporary apparel and accessories. Bridging fine art and fashion photography­—a signature of Chen Man—the hyper-saturated color palette and mixing of cultural influences give the images a wondrous, dreamlike and fantastical brilliance.

Directed by Paul Marciano, CEO and Chief Creative Officer for GUESS?, Inc., and shot by two-time collaborator Chen Man, the Holiday 2014 campaign features GUESS Girls Megan Williams and Karmay Ngaia, both young and full of energy yet from vastly different worlds. The campaign depicts a journey of their global friendship, taking the viewer on a voyage across Japan’s most picturesque locations.

The journey begins with the GUESS Girls practicing Japan’s most traditional of martial arts, Kendo. Their powerful poses bring their strength and beauty to the forefront of each image. As the journey unfolds, we follow the GUESS Girls as they enjoy a traditional Japanese tea ceremony set against a dazzling backdrop of rich foliage in vivid red, magenta and pink hues. The models are also seen traveling by rickshaw and posing alongside Japan’s emblematic fish flag. The story concludes in a bed full of cherry blossoms where the GUESS Girls accessorize eye-catching red mini-dresses with traditional paper parasols for an afternoon picnic.

Styled by the renowned fashion editor and stylist Satoshi Hirota, the images showcase stand-out apparel from the GUESS holiday collection. Bold red and black color combinations and head-to-toe sleek leather silhouettes offset the shadowy outdoor scenes. As the scenery softens, so too does the clothing. Pastel-colored garments, classic denim jackets, and chambray button downs complement the vibrant colors of the landscape.


See the campaign (and photos) at the Guess webpage:

More selected commentary from Japan Today, 11/21/14:

From Tokyo to Mount Fuji, the series features Japan’s wild and peaceful landscapes, while paying homage to the country’s traditional roots and modern lifestyle at the same time. The result is two models who come off looking both elegant and bad-ass.

One thought-provoking image stands out for its allusion to gender stereotypes and femininity. When a girl puts down a pole flying pink koinobori carp, traditionally used as a symbol of strength for the Boys’ Day national holiday (now known as Childrens’ Day), you know she’s heralding a new dawn for gender stereotypes.

Another photo featuring dramatic red and black looks, styled by Satoshi Hirata, pays homage to Japan’s long rickshaw tradition, which is still going strong today. The black, shiny rickshaws can be seen at tourist spots with passengers draped in bright red blankets to shield themselves from the cold.

Then there is a hanami picnic under the cherry blossoms. The model’s adoring gaze up into the cherry blossom tree makes the viewer feel like a pretty little bird.


Japan has never looked cooler. File this one under advertisements that illustrate/represent cultural fads (and fantasies) on a global level...

Saturday, November 22, 2014

"7 Wonderfully Weird Things to Do in Tokyo"

Photos and text borrowed from from MSN Travel.

Visit a Maid Cafe

Eat at Robot Restaurant

Spot Freaky Fashions in Harajuku and Akihibara

Rock out to Dancehall Reggae Music at Garam

Auction for Tuna at the Tsukiji Fish Market

Experience Shibuya Crossing

Stay in a Capsule Hotel

Source (and more details):

Perhaps good advice if you are looking for a wonderfully stereotyped/staged vacation in Tokyo... But I wonder what is so weird about Tsukiji...?

My best advice is to avoid Tokyo altogether and make efforts to see and interact with the real Japan. You just might find it wonderful and weird in a good way...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Nikon repairs Mount Ontake victim’s broken camera, returns photos to family"

From Japan Today, 11/12/14:

The unexpected eruption of Mount Ontake on September 27 claimed the lives of 56 hikers, leaving family members to try to understand why their loved ones had been taken so suddenly. But out of this tragedy comes a heartwarming gesture, giving the family of one victim the chance to get back a small piece of their father who never made it down the mountain that day.

...The several hundred nature enthusiasts who took advantage of the autumn weekend on September 27 were completely caught off guard, many unable to flee the nightmarish scene when the mountain suddenly and violently erupted.

Sadly, 66-year-old Kazuo Wakabayashi of Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture, was among the victims. An avid photographer, Wakabayashi would frequently go on fishing and photography trips, his hike up Mount Ontake just a part of his hobbies. He took a newly purchased Nikon camera with him on his hike, which was later returned to his family on October 1, broken and covered in ash.

When the folks at Nikon read about Wakabayashi’s story after it was published in the Yomiuri Shimbun, they reached out to his family and offered to repair the broken camera. Over the course of 10 days, the lens, filter and all interior parts were fixed and the red body of the Nikon camera that had been grayed with ash was restored to its original vibrant color, free of charge. The restored camera was returned to Wakabayashi’s second daughter, along with 200 photos that Nikon also managed to recover.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

"East or West: A Walking Journey Along Shikoku’s 88 Temple Pilgrimage"

Announcement from H-Japan: Photography book on the Shikoku Pilgrimage published

Alexandra Huddleston is pleased to announce the release of her new photography book:

East or West: A Walking Journey Along Shikoku’s 88 Temple Pilgrimage

The book is available through The Kyoudai Press and The Photo Eye Bookstore.


East or West: A Walking Journey Along Shikoku’s 88 Temple Pilgrimage is an abridged diary, an account of a mystical journey, and a photographic poem in the form of a book. The images are studies in luminous detail, reflecting the loneliness, quiet intensity, and grace that all true spiritual seekers come to know.

In September 2010 (a few days before her thirty-third birthday), the photographer Alexandra Huddleston set out on an 800-mile walk around the island of Shikoku, Japan. To complete the Shikoku Ohenro trail pilgrims worship at 88 temples on the island, following a route that loosely traces the life and legends of the Buddhist saint Kōbō Daishi. In the course of her journey, from time to time, the material world unexpectedly gave way to a voyage of mystical transformation. This is the story of East or West.

ISBN: 978-0-9860437-1-0

Publisher: Blind Cat Valentine: The Kyoudai Press publication series

Photographs: 18

Text: 2 quotes, foreword, journal entries

Friday, November 7, 2014

"CG image at heart of pornography case"

Text from The Japan News on-line, 11/6/14:

Should images created using computer graphics be regarded as child pornography?

In the trial of a man accused of creating and selling CG images of a naked girl in violation of the law banning child pornography, his defense attorneys argue he is innocent on the grounds that CG images are original creations and are not illegal.

Since the law took effect in 1999, defining child pornography has been a contest between tightening regulations and protecting freedom of expression. Bitter exchanges are likely to continue between the defense and prosecution until the case is decided.

Akashi Takahashi of Gifu Prefecture was arrested and indicted in July last year for violating the law. It was the first case in which CG images were considered child pornography for the purpose of criminal charges.

According to the indictment, the 53-year-old graphic designer allegedly created CG images based on pictures of a naked girl and sold the images on the Internet from 2008 to 2013. The prosecutors insist that the defendant referred to a book of photographs of a naked girl, published in the 1980s, saying, “The images, elaborately created based on pictures of a girl who really exists, constitute child pornography.”

Meanwhile, the defense insisted in a trial that started in December last year at the Tokyo District Court that Takahashi had created the CG images by referring to images or drawings of various women. “The images were pieces of art depicting a person who doesn’t exist, so it is not subject to criminal punishment,” the defense said.

Concerning a model in the photo book, the defense pointed out that the prosecutors failed to prove that the model was aged under 18 — the threshold below which regulations apply. In response, a pediatrician who appeared in court as a prosecution witness gave testimony that the model could be judged to be under 18 from her physical appearance.

Hearings in the trial had been held four times by June this year, but since then sessions concerning the disclosure of evidence and other issues have been closed to the public. In future hearings, the defense said they plan to reveal the process of how the CG images were created to demonstrate that the image is an original creation by the defendant. “It should not be allowed for freedom of expression to be threatened by stretching the definition of child pornography in an arbitrary manner,” the defendant’s lawyer Takashi Yamaguchi said.

Graphics fall into legal gray zone

Although restrictions on child pornography have repeatedly been strengthened, the materials that are controlled are limited out of consideration for freedom of expression.

After the law banning child prostitution and child pornography came into force in 1999, goods such as a photo collections of naked young girls disappeared from the market, and browsing such books at the National Diet Library was banned in 2006.

However, because the law aims to protect children from sexual exploi-tation and abuse, the restrictions only target items portraying actual children. Comics and animation have remained uncontrolled.

Subsequently, elaborate computer graphic (CG) images went into circulation among collectors of such pornography instead of photos, causing concern that this exploits a legal loophole.

The Metropolitan Police Department decided to arrest a Gifu Prefecture man apparently because the CG images he created were purportedly so lifelike that people could recognize the real girl they were modeled on.

“If we can successfully prove they were modeled on actual children, we will continue to arrest [those who produce such images],” a senior MPD official said.

In some developed countries, restrictions on child pornography are more strict.

According to the Foreign Ministry, realistic CG images are subject to control in the United States and Italy even if they are not based on actual models.

In Japan, the law revision in June additionally prohibits personal possession of child pornography. But the revision does not target manga, anime or CG images out of consideration for freedom of expression, although the ruling parties initially considered such media to be problematic.

Takayuki Oguchi, a journalist familiar with CG technology, said: “It is reality that the technology enabling the creation of elaborate CG images, very much like photography, has been established. Such technology should be used to contribute to the development of culture and art. Creators of CG images need to be aware of that and they should not let police intervene.”


Thursday, November 6, 2014

"Emoji skin tones floated: Should emoji be more racially diverse?"

Image and text from The Christian Science Monitor on-line, 11/4/14.

A new skin tone modifier option could break from guidelines keeping emojis "as neutral as possible" and make the picture symbol more diverse in racial appearance.

The Unicode Consortium – non-profit organization that coordinates the development of the Unicode standard – released a technical report detailing a new method for handling the representation of multi-ethnic groups in emoji, MacRumors reported. The forthcoming Unicode 8.0 update proposes the modifier which would allow users to send human emoji in a range of skin tones.

"People all over the world want to have emoji that reflect more human diversity, especially for skin tone. The Unicode emoji characters for people and body parts are meant to be generic, yet following the precedents set by the original Japanese carrier images, they are often shown with a light skin tone instead of a more generic (inhuman) appearance, such as a yellow/orange color or a silhouette," says the report, which the writers emphasize is still in draft form. The symbol modifier characters are based on the tones of the Fitzpatrick scale, a recognized standard for dermatology, according to the report.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Film screening and discussion: Stories of Tohoku

Announcement from SJJ-Forum:

Sophia University Institute of Comparative Culture Presents
Film screening and discussion: Stories of Tohoku

Friday, November 21, 2014
6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Sophia University Yotsuya Campus Building. 2, Room 508

Japanese American filmmakers Dianne Fukami and Debra Nakatomi will discuss the film and respond to questions following the screening.

Stories From Tohoku examines survivors' strength, resilience, grace and acceptance, and the enduring bonds between the people of Japan and Americans of Japanese ancestry. During Japan's recovery and rebuilding following the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, the film is an inspiring tribute to the human spirit.
English with Japanese subtitles / No registration needed / Free

For more info on the film:

For more info on the Sophia screening:

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A New Android Who "Can Do Japanese Sign Language"

Accompanying text: Toshiba has developed a lifelike communication android that can move its arms and hands smoothly and use Japanese sign language. The android is a prototype that the company will continue to develop towards achieving a service robot able to assist people in the fields of welfare and healthcare. The android will be showcased at CEATEC JAPAN 2014, which will be held from October 7 to 11.


Lifelike? Smoothly? Use Japanese Sign Language? Really? (The JSL is horrible, barely understandable...) Despite not having a face, ASIMO's sign language is a little better...

Monday, September 29, 2014

"Own a pair of secret camera shoes? The police should be by shortly for a visit"

From Japan Today, September 25, 2014:

For most of this summer, Kyoto Prefectural Police have been carrying out an aggressive campaign of going to people’s homes and asking them to voluntarily give up their shoes with built-in hidden cameras. These house calls have resulted in hundreds of pairs of these “tosatsu shoes” (voyeur shoes) winding up in police custody.

The shoes contain a hidden camera in the toe behind some mesh which is operated by a remote control

This plan to deter the use of tosatsu shoes to illegally film in private areas such as up women’s skirts had proved so successful that police in Kyoto are spreading the word to other departments and will continue the same tactics in the future.

This strategy started back in mid-July when Kyoto police decided that rather than chase down individual peepers on the streets, they could hit the suppliers instead. On July 1, they raided a camera supply company that sells tosatsu shoes on the side.

They arrested the 26-year-old manager for “aiding voyeurism” which is a violation of the Nuisance Prevention Ordinance and fined him 500,000 yen. While putting the supplier out of the shoe camera business and confiscating their supply was a victory for the police, it later proved to be a mere drop in the bucket.

Several other tosatsu shoe vendors were still selling online with impunity and later that month an Okayama man was arrested while attempting to film up young girls’ skirts at the Kaiyukan Aquarium in Osaka. The shoes he used were from the same company the police had previously raided.

According to police, that company had sold about 2,500 pairs of tosatsu shoes from 2012 to 2014 for a total revenue of around 60 million yen. Setting the money aside for a moment, consider that 2,500 pairs of camera shoes were in circulation in a two-year period. Considering this is only from one company, think about how much pervy recording must be going on out there and get ready for a good boggling of the mind.

Luckily for the police, also seized during the search was a list of about 1,500 customers with their delivery addresses. By mid-August they came up with the plan to pay these former customers a visit one by one. This was tricky as simply owning a pair of camera shoes isn’t illegal and the owners technically didn’t have to relinquish them.

Nevertheless, the Kyoto Prefectural Police relying heavily on the fact that they are police and therefore intimidating, asked each customer to hand over their tosatsu shoes and fill out a “disposal request” on which they have to state why they purchased the shoes in the first place.

They went on, house by house, until, as reported by a police spokesperson, almost all of the shoes in Kyoto were collected – with the exception of a few who “threw them away.” They are also passing along addresses of customers outside of the jurisdiction to the appropriate authorities.

So if you happen to own a pair of tosatsu shoes, you may want to consider disposing of them before the police come a’knocking. But chances are if you were dense enough to buy them online and leave a record of the transaction with your correct name and address, you aren’t going to listen to me anyway.


See the shoes here:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ethics of Visual Anthropology in Japan - Part Eight: The Dialogue Continues

I cannot believe it has been 5 years since the beginning of VAOJ's Shooting Culture in Japan project. The first goal of the project was to establish and suggest some guidelines for shooting film and photographs in Japan for students in my Visual Anthropology of Japan course. Through the years my students have produced successful blogs, photo exhibitions and films with no major ethical or legal problems. The second goal of the project was to begin and promote dialogue and discussion of the methods and ethics of shooting culture with an emphasis on Japan. VAOJ produced seven posts providing various sources and perspectives on the issues of shooting film and photographs in Japan. You can review these posts at the following url:

I am happy to report that the dialogue has continued (or was going on in places I had not yet seen). Here I want to provide a long overdue update that includes important resources dealing with photography and visual anthropology from academic institutions, anthropologists and photographers.

First, I would like to examine the efforts of the Society for Visual Anthropology (SVA, a section of the American Anthropological Association, AAA). On November 28, 2001 it produced the following:

Guidelines for the Evaluation of Ethnographic Visual Media


Ethnographic visual media (specially film, video, photography and digital multimedia) play a significant role in the production and application of anthropological knowledge and form an integral part of the discipline’s course offerings. Anthropologists involved in the production of visual works make valuable scholarly contributions to the discipline. In addition, anthropologists increasingly include visual media productions as part of their curricula vitae. Departmental and university Committees for Hiring, Promoting and Tenure are thus charged with judging the scholarly quality of these non-print works. Yet not all anthropologists bring appropriate experience or training to their evaluation of visual media and no standard guideline exists.

The above is the first paragraph which seems to be mostly concerned with academic institutions being able to recognize and judge the merit of visual methods and images in anthropological research. The last sentence is important that it indicates the lack of any guidelines in methods and evaluation. See the whole statement at the following url:

In 2007 the SVA, especially members Sara Perry and Jonathon S. Marion, began a series of discussions and roundtables on the ethics involved in visual anthropology. Their publication, "State of the Ethics in Visual Anthropology"(Visual Anthropology Review, Vol. 26, Issue 2, pp. 96–104) includes a description of the first three events (2007, 2008, 2009). Below is a brief overview of the SVA sponsored discussions and roundtables (italicized descriptions come from Perry and Marion 2010 for the first three events; descriptions of the last three events are borrowed from announcements on the SVA blog).

2007 "Ethics and Examples: A Discussion Regarding Visual Ethics"

Main theme: real-world ethical matters faced by anthropologists working with visual data (p. 96).

2008 "The Ethics of Visual Data: Picturing Inclusion, Collaboration, and Engagement"

Of note: cases from the subfields of archaeological, sociocultural and biological anthropology (p.97).

2009 "End/s, Ethics, and Images: A Roundtable Discussion on Visual Ethics"

Main theme: visual media, as with all forms of representation, are often used and understood in unanticipated ways outside and sometimes within their original anthropological frameworks of creation (p. 97).

2010 “Ethics and Images: A Discussion of Visual Ethics and Circulation”

Main theme: to explore the ethical considerations implicated and involved in the intersections of images and circulation.

2011 "Traces of the Image: A Roundtable Discussion on Visual Ethics"

Questions of interest: How have histories of anthropological practice impacted on our contemporary management of imagery? How are shifting visual technologies and intellectual paradigms disrupting or rearranging our ethical priorities? Where is representational authority situated in unstable, multiply-occupied/authored anthropological contexts?

2012 "On The Boarders of the Image: A Roundtable Discussion on Visual Ethics"

Of particular interest is the iterative and unstable nature of image use-the navigation of visual value systems and moralities across time, space, cultural and institutional context, particularly when circumscribed by programmatic ethical review models.

2013 "Conflicting Accounts: A Roundtable Discussion on Visual Ethics"

Goal: to investigate the responsibility of photographers, filmmakers, ethnographers to present a ‘balanced’ representation of the conflict.

These authors are to be commended for their work and keeping the dialogue going. Their "State of the Ethics in Visual Anthropology" also provides guidelines from other anthropological associations that have ethical guidelines for their members that the SVA and AAA currently lack.

Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth - Ethical Guidelines for Good Research Practice (March, 1999)

These guidelines address such issues as personal and moral relationships, trust and reciprocity between the researcher and research participants, power relationships, informed consent, rejection of visual methods, intellectual property rights, copyright clearances, etc. See the details at the following url:

Statement Of Ethical Practice For The British Sociological Association – Visual Sociology Group (December 2006)

These guidelines start out with an important Statement of Intent:

The statement does not represent a core method for resolving ethical choices or dilemmas, but aims to give direction and stimulate consideration of ethical factors in sociological research utilizing visual methodologies/methods.

The statement is not an exhaustive list of ethical considerations, but rather a guide to ethical practice in professional activities.

The strength of this statement rest ultimately on active discussion, reflection, and its continued use by sociologists. In addition, the statement will help to communicate the professional position of sociologists to others, especially those involved in or affected by the activities of sociologists.

The document goes on to consider professional integrity, legal considerations, relations and responsibilities towards research participants, covert research, anonymity, privacy and confidentiality. See details in the following url:

These two sets of guidelines are important and helpful. Again, many thanks to Perry and Marion for supplying them in their article. Perry and Marion go on to comment about attempts to provide guidelines:

...what they witness is our collective struggles with matters of visual competency and authority: with questions about what constitutes ‘‘the visual,’’ who owns it, who can reproduce and educate about it, where it resides, how it can be manipulated and construed, and with what effects, and who has the skill to manage it with the fewest adverse ramifications. At stake, thus, are major issues of accountability, responsibility, social justice, authorship, rigor, specificity, and overall proficiency and training in image production and circulation. These are matters common and significant to all forms and subjects of visual representation and to all who make, disseminate, and consume such representation. They may not always be manageable with the same tools or intellectual strategies, but as the SVA ethics roundtables attest, they are present and potent across the anthropological field - no subdiscipline excluded (p. 100).

Perry and Marion also indicate that a SVA ethics committee has been formed. I look forward to hearing more about this group and their work.


Another helpful resources that sheds light on these issues specifically in Japan is the edited book by Jennifer E. Robertson, Politics and Pitfalls of Japan Ethnography: Reflexivity, Responsibility, and Anthropological Ethics (2009; Routledge Press). ann-elise lewallen provides a chapter entitled, “Bones of Contention: Negotiating Anthropological Ethics within Fields of Ainu Refusal” (p. 3-24) where she describes the 1985 lawsuit of Ainu activist Cikap Mieko against editors of Ainu Minzokushi (Ainu Ethnology) for unauthorized publishing of her photo. lewallen writes:

In the portrait rights lawsuit she later launched, she challenged the way that scholars had treated her as a ‘research object’ and criticized the books portrayal of Ainu as ‘primitive,’ ‘barbarian,’ and ‘uncivilized.’ Although the lawsuit is framed as a ‘portrait rights case,’ Cikap’s rationale for launching the case stems from usage of her photograph in a text that epitomizes the colonialist invasion of Hokkaido and academic excess (12).

One result of this lawsuit was the Japanese Society of Ethnology (JSE) 1989 “Statement on Ainu and Research Ethics” which established general standards for Ainu research, urging researchers to recognize Ainu as a distinct ethnic group, to promote collaborative research, and to promote public education of Ainu issues (12). But JSE guidelines for all research lack except for their Research Ethics Committee brief report in Minzokugaku Kenkyu (society journal) that touched upon issues including relations between researchers and researched, concerns related to gender, obligations to repatriate research findings, copyright and portrait rights, informant remuneration, and language and translation issues (12). lewallen discusses the problem of a perceived "ethics allergy" [where a] compulsory code might impinge on academic freedom (13).


One final source I would like to present is a very important book that was mentioned in a previous VAOJ post and is especially relevant for this discussion:

日本写真家協会 [Japan Professional Photographer’s Society]
2007 スナップ写真のルールとマナー [The Rules and Manners of Snapshot Photos]. Tokyo: Asahi Shinsho.

This book is written in Japanese; I take all responsibility for any errors in interpretation of ideas or language. The book was written in the context of more and more digital cameras and cell phone cameras available and thus being used more often in public. In some instances, intentional or not, problems have arisen in photographing and/or the dissemination of images. The book endorses good relationships with people in the realms of trust, manners, etiquette, morals, human interaction and human rights. In the areas of publishing and displaying photos the book provides legal definitions and discussions of portrait rights, copyright, use rights, personal rights, property rights and publication rights. More specifically it provides various scenarios and gives advice for each setting. These scenarios include street fairs, parks, sight-seeing locations, temples/shrines, mountain hiking paths, sporting events, shops, etc. The following are general themes that appear in various sections of the book that I have summarized and feel to be good advice for taking photos in public in Japan (especially in the realm of not for profit and for academic use only):

1. Get permission; under most circumstances a release form is not necessary. Smile and give the ”simple asking gesture” before you shoot. It is usually obvious when people do not want to be photographed.

2. Explain what you are doing and offer to send/give photos to the people you are photographing.

3. If people object, don’t take the photo.

4. Don’t take covert photos.

5. Don’t get in the way of events or people resting (from an activity or hiking, for example).

6. Respect people and their property. Understand their personal and human rights.

7. Have a confident, positive attitude; always be grateful for taking photos.

8. Put yourself in the place of your subjects: would you want to be photographed in that particular situation?

This good advice along with the various information presented from these resources seem to reinforce the scenarios and advice offered in Part Seven of this series. VAOJ will keep this dialogue going through introducing more resources and posting related and articles. Please contribute to this dialogue through comments, ideas, experiences and recommended related resources.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Free and Open Access of Alexander Street Press Anthropology Resources (limited time only)

Announcement via EASIANTH. This is free access to a wide variety of films, text and other resources. Take advantage of this open access while you can!

For a limited time the full range of Alexander Street Press anthropology collections, video and text, are available open access to the academic community.

Access to all our anthropology collections is available until 30 September using the following link:

Just click on the collections in your area of interest and start exploring today -there are seven collections released, available as stand alone collections or customized packages.

If prompted the user name is reviewer and the password is 578heroic3

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Tribe - "Performed entirely in sign language with nary a subtitle nor a syllable of spoken dialogue"

Photo and story borrowed from

Actions, emotions and desperate impulses speak far louder than words in “The Tribe,” a formally audacious coup de cinema that marks a stunning writing-directing debut for Ukrainian filmmaker Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy. Set largely within the walls of a boarding school for the deaf that reveals itself as a violent cesspool of organized crime, this bleak, pitiless yet weirdly exhilarating drama is performed entirely in sign language by an ensemble of non-professional young actors, with nary a subtitle nor a syllable of spoken dialogue — a demanding high-concept stunt that accrues multiple layers of meaning as the picture moves toward its bone-chilling conclusion. Breathtakingly controlled, riveting even at its most inscrutable, this worthy winner of three Cannes Critics’ Week prizes looks to be a significant conversation-piece at every festival it plays, and should parlay glowing critical response into serious arthouse exposure.

It will be especially interesting to see what deaf viewers make of Slaboshpytskiy’s highly accomplished first feature; engrossingly expanded from the writer-director’s 2010 short, “Deafness,” it’s an unflinchingly pessimistic portrait of a youthful underground subculture that has dealt with its social disadvantages by turning to thuggery and prostitution. Given the emotional/inspirational thrust of so many movies and TV shows (from “Children of a Lesser God” to TV’s “Switched at Birth”) featuring deaf characters, who are often presented in relation to their hearing friends and family, there’s something coldly bracing about “The Tribe’s” total immersion strategy, as well as its utter refusal to sentimentalize its characters and the harsh, isolated world they inhabit.

Read the full review:

See the trailer (warning - nudity):

Sunday, September 7, 2014

"HIV/AIDS awareness in Japan still lacking"

From Japan Today, 9/6/14 (by Chiara Terzuolo):

It starts as a quick twist in a morning chat with friends, sipping coffee as the still cool morning breeze wafts off the port of Yokohama. My two friends are women in their mid-30s, professional and well-traveled. One tilts her head to the side and wonders: ‘I dunno, I feel a bit weird… maybe it’s the heat? Or maybe I got pregnant from that guy a few weeks ago…’ The other quickly laughs it off, saying it is unlikely at their age, with much assenting and nodding. And my blood runs cold.

“Why didn’t you use a condom?!” The question pops out of my mouth before my brain even has a say in the matter.

“Oh, I dunno,” is the unsatisfactory answer, accompanied by a self-deprecating chuckle.

“Are you nuts?!”

“Oh no! You set her off again!” laughs my other friend, as if my concern about safety is a silly, weird quirk to be tolerated. But I can’t let it go, my thoughts pulsing with alarm.

And so this is how I find myself, once again, giving women almost a decade older than myself the AIDS talk.

While in other industrialized nations, HIV infection rates have been steadily decreasing over the last decade, Japan stands out as the exception. From 2000 to 2014, the reported cases of HIV in Japan have more than doubled, with 70% of the cases being individuals in their 20s and 30s. Naturally, there will be many, many more carriers of the virus out there, who simply have not been tested or started showing signs yet. (1) About 30% of AIDS cases in the country are individuals who had no idea that they were HIV positive until the damn disease had progressed to full-blown AIDS.

Besides the continuous rise in cases, another fact that should cause great concern is that the number of people getting tested is falling. (2) So, there are thousands of people out there, unknowingly continuing to spread the virus through lack of safe sexual practices (as the number of cases of HIV transmission through needle-sharing or from mother to child is a minor in Japan).

Considering the lax use of condoms (and minimal amount of sexual education in schools or on TV, which are the main ways people find out about the dangers of HIV), this is no surprise. As typified by my friend’s reaction, the main worry about unprotected sex is pregnancy, not diseases.

In fact, many people don’t believe that HIV and AIDS are a problem in Japan. It is considered a “foreign” disease by many, which can only be caught by intercourse with “foreigners”—completely ludicrous, considering that 85% of new cases were infected in Japan. In addition, the number of non-Japanese cases in Japan has continued to decrease, with circa 93% of HIV/AIDS carriers being Japanese nationals.

My friends in their 30s brush away my concern about their lack of awareness by saying that they are from a “different generation,” and that now this info is taught in school. Obviously not sufficiently well, as cases continue to rise and 50% of university students are uninformed about how the virus is transmitted and how to protect themselves. (3) Asking a few younger friends directly about how they were taught about HIV/AIDS, most replied that they were taught about the existence of the disease, but little to nothing about transmission or prevention.

Because of the lack of awareness and lukewarm campaigns (including a recent one, featuring one of the members of the band Exile) people do not really think to look online for information. Many have no clue about even basic things, like the difference between HIV and AIDS or the fact that the virus can be transmitted through oral sex. A few people implied “it can’t be helped” and that in Japan, “they don’t teach about these sort of things.”

While saying this is a group-oriented society, the disregard for the consequences of their actions angers me. I ask if they have ever been tested, only to be told it is “too scary” or “embarrassing”... while continuing to have unprotected sex. The average age for women newly diagnosed is 25-34, putting them right in the bracket. Cases in heterosexual males are also on the rise, despite the tired and dangerous misconception that this is a “gay disease.”

Having been taught from a young age about the importance of safe sex, I feel that protecting not only yourself but also your partner(s) is the greatest gesture of love and respect. Education from a young age is essential for all genders, as is showing the reality of living with the disease. I for one will continue giving my talk ad nauseam ... and pray for a ripple effect.


Click here for previous HIV/AIDS posts on VAOJ.

Friday, September 5, 2014

"Man arrested for taking 'normal' picture of woman on train"

As VAOJ has stated many times, privacy laws are different in Japan. People have a right to privacy even when in public. So it is always best - and safe - to ask permission before taking a photo in public. See the story below from Japan Today, 9/5/14:

Japan was one of the first countries to sell mobile phones equipped with a camera back in 2000. Having a camera on you at all times sure does come in handy, as you’ll always be able to capture that special moment wherever you are.

Unfortunately, sometimes that special moment is a peep-shot or a scandalous photo which is certainly a violation of privacy. Japan has taken a very no-nonsense approach to help stop these highly inappropriate photos, and it comes in the form of the Anti-Nuisance Ordinance. So powerful is this law that the latest person to be arrested has caused a bit of commotion. His crime? Taking a picture of a fully-clothed woman sitting beside him on the train.

The 40-year-old man was arrested in Kawasaki City for taking pictures of a young woman next to him on the train. The police arrived on the scene after the woman called and informed them of what the man did. The photos in question did not contain any sneaky under the skirt shots or attempts to get a glimpse of her bra, just full body shots, head to toe.

So, why was the man arrested? Cases like this have made the news in the past few years, falling under the aforementioned Anti-Nuisance Ordinance. The law is quite broad in its language, but seeks to protect one thing: the safety and well-being of women. The law states that it doesn’t matter what you are taking a picture of, if the woman being photographed is made to feel uncomfortable or starts feeling anxious, you are liable to be arrested. Even so much as pointing a camera in the victim’s direction without taking a picture is grounds for arrest.

The last controversial case like this became big news back in 2011, when a man was arrested for taking pictures of a woman sleeping on the train. Another back in 2008 involved a Self-Defense Forces member, whose guilty verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court for violating the Anti-Nuisance Ordinance by taking 11 pictures of a woman’s butt/hip area. The woman had all of her clothes on but the court ruled he was in clear violation of the law.

The law also does not discriminate with the age of the woman and any female, young or old, can complain that she is feeling “shy, ashamed or embarrassed”, and the person causing that discomfort will have to deal with the police in some fashion.

With another case getting national coverage in Japan, the Anti-Nuisance Ordinance will surely continue to be scrutinized. For example, the ordinance does not mention males in any fashion. What if it’s a man’s picture being taken and it makes him feel uncomfortable? Is this against the law? There’s also the question of how far does this law go? What about people who are taking pictures in Shibuya Crossing, one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in the world? Or someone who’s been caught by the Google Maps car? Or most of the programs on Japanese TV?


Thursday, August 28, 2014

"Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art forced to cover up 'obscene' photos following complaint"

Image borrowed from Twitter (@asaitakashi) via Japan Today, 8/27/14.

Story from Japan Today, 8/27/14:

When police arrested Japanese artist Rokudenashiko last month for distributing 3-D printer plans for models of her vagina, the world was at once baffled and outraged. But despite all the fuss that was raised over the artist’s arrest, it looks like the Japanese police are at it again, this time targeting the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art for an exhibition featuring nude photography by the Japanese photographer Ryudai Takano.

Though no one has been arrested, the museum made headlines after it partially covered some of Ryudai’s photographs with cloth after local police deemed the images “obscene.” However, many in Japan are questioning the legitimacy of the police actions.

The exhibit, called “Photography Will Be,” features photos from nine different photographers and is set to run until September 28. According to the museum’s website, the exhibit is intended to “[examine] our relationship to the photograph and the image.” To that end, Takano, who is known for his nude photography, contributed nearly 50 pieces, 12 of which feature male genitalia.

Realizing that not all patrons would be happy about being confronted with uncensored genitalia, the museum consulted with an attorney and decided to put a curtain up separating the photos from the others on display and included a warning explaining that the images may be unpalatable for some. A guard was even posted nearby to watch the entrance of the cordoned-off area. Nevertheless, the police showed up on August 12, almost two weeks after the exhibit opened, demanding that the 12 “obscene” photos be removed following an anonymous complaint about the exhibition.

However, rather than simply getting rid the offending photographs, the museum worked out a sort of deal with the police. Cloth was put up over the photos themselves so as to censor the images and prevent anyone from seeing anything that might be glimpsed in an everyday locker room.

Though the photographs remain, many are still upset by the police’s apparent violation of free speech – including Shuji Takahashi, one of the museum’s curators. Takahashi explained that he did not want to engage in self-censorship, but had little choice since he would otherwise face arrest. For his part, Takano explained that there were basically three ways they could deal with the situation: 1) Continue with the exhibit unchanged, 2) Replace the photos in question with “safe” photos, or 3) Cover up the offending aspects of the photos.

Since letting the museum staff be arrested was out of the question for Takano, he immediately rejected the first option. He also felt that the second option was equally unacceptable as it would imply that they agreed with the police. The third option, though not ideal, would allow Takano to communicate his protest to patrons without anyone ending up in handcuffs.

By partially covering the photos, Takano is signalling to patrons that the police have become involved – though we imagine that most museum-goers have heard about the incident already. However, Takano’s choice to cover up the “obscene” portions of the photos is not without precedent – in an email sent to and posted by webDICE, the photographer references Seiki Kuroda, a Meiji- and Showa-era painter. Kuroda painted in the Western style and spent many years abroad studying a style that was, at the time, quite foreign to Japan. Upon his return from France, the painter opened an exhibit, including a technically excellent female nude which drew outrage. Takano was apparently inspired by Kuroda’s choice to add a “loincloth” to the painting as a way to deal with critics.

While many were displeased with the police deeming works of art in a museum “obscene,” there is another aspect to the case that has people’s ire up: A lack of transparency. In addition to the obscenity charges being a violation of free speech and free expression rights, the anonymous reporting and sudden appearance of the police demanding the photos be removed is troubling for many, including Takahashi. He explained that the anonymous complaint was frustrating–if the patron had reported it to the museum staff, they would have been able to explain the work to the patron.

But even more troubling for Tohoku University professor Tarou Igarashi is how easy it is for anonymous complaints to cause trouble. “If you wanted to make accusations against a work of art, there are a number of easy ways to do so,” he told Yahoo! Japan News.

A Change.Org petition created by fellow photographer Takashi Arai has received over 3,100 signatures since it appeared online. The petition maintains that the police are legally unable to demand the photos be taken down, and dismisses the idea that any of the photos are obscene.


“Photography Will Be” website:

Click here for Change.Org petition.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

“Stop! AIDS” campaign event - Porn queens to take part in 24-hour 'squeeze-a-thon'

From Japan Today, 8/27/14:

A group of Japanese porn actresses are preparing to have their breasts squeezed by fans for 24 hours this weekend for a charity event loosely translated as “Boob Aid”.

The nine adult movie stars told local media on Monday they could barely contain their excitement about the “Stop! AIDS” campaign event—which will be televised live—but asked, perhaps somewhat optimistically: please be gentle.

“I’m really looking forward to lots of people fondling my boobs,” Rina Serina told the Tokyo Sports newspaper. “But I would be very happy if you would please be delicate.”

The event, the 12th since its launch in 2003, will be broadcast on adult cable television, with punters donating to the anti-AIDS campaign in exchange for a feel.

It comes after sexist heckling of a Tokyo assemblywoman hit the headlines, highlighting old-fashioned views toward women that still permeate Japanese society.

“I never thought my boobs could contribute to society,” added the ponytailed Serina, apparently unaware of any contradiction.

Fellow porn actress Iku Sakuragi had no qualms about being groped by hundreds of pairs of hands.

“It’s for charity,” said the 21-year-old. “Squeeze them, donate money—let’s be happy.”

The 24-hour “squeeze-a-thon” begins at 8 p.m. on Saturday and is backed by the Japan Foundation for AIDS Prevention.

It's worth a try, huh? HIV/AIDS continues to rise in Japan.


UPDATE: Porn queens raise over Y2 mil for AIDS...
(Japan Today
, 8/30/14)

A group of Japanese porn actresses raised more than 2 million yen Saturday and Sunday by having their breasts squeezed by fans at a “Boob Aid” charity event for AIDS prevention.

The nine adult movie stars, sporting yellow campaign T-shirts rolled up to reveal their breasts, flashed a big smile as punters came to them at an event that opened Saturday.

Having sprayed their hands with disinfectant, many of them were seen fondling the breasts quite discreetly.

A man was seen pressing his palms together in the style of a Buddhist prayer before and after he softly touched the breasts of each of the nine girls.

Women were occasionally spotted in the mostly male crowd, prompting one of the girls to say in rapture: “Wow, I’m happy. I want her to touch my breasts!”

Boob Aid is part of the 24-hour “Stop! AIDS” campaign event in Tokyo, which is also being televised live on a Japanese adult cable channel.

The breast-squeezing resumed Sunday morning after an overnight break.

More than 2,300 pairs of hands groped for a total of eight hours until early Sunday afternoon, organizers said.

The figure suggests some 2.3 million yen has already been collected as each participant was expected to donate 1,000 yen or more.

The final money count will be announced after the event closes at 8 p.m. on Sunday.

The event is the 12th since its launch in 2003. It is backed by the Japan Foundation for AIDS Prevention.


“I never thought my boobs could contribute to society,” added the ponytailed Serina, apparently unaware of any contradiction.


ANOTHER UPDATE: Make that 5 million yen raised...

Monday, August 25, 2014

Update: "Monkeys, ghosts and gods 'cannot own copyright' says US"

From The Telegraph, 8/21/14:

In the wake of controversy over Wikipedia’s free and worldwide distribution of a monkey ‘selfie’ against the wishes of the man who claims to own copyright, the US has issued new guidance that says monkeys, ghosts and gods are all banned from possessing image rights.

The US Copyright Office has published a draft update to its rules regarding ownership of creative works like photographs, text and art – the first changes in more than two decades – which explicitly state that it will only recognise pieces produced by a human.

Among the 1,222 pages of updated rules and regulations are explicit bans on works produced by “nature, animals, or plants” or “purportedly created by divine or supernatural beings”.

In a list of examples of prohibited applications is “a photograph taken by a monkey” - an apparent nod to the recent Wikipedia case.

Wikimedia, the US-based organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to remove one of his images which it uses online without his permission, claiming that because a monkey pressed the shutter button there is no copyright on it.

The group has included the image in its database of royalty free images, which it offers for use worldwide, but the photographer claims it is his to sell and licence.

British nature photographer David Slater was in Indonesia in 2011 attempting to get the perfect image of a crested black macaque when one of the animals came up to investigate his equipment, hijacked a camera and took hundreds of selfies.

Slater has since complained that Wikimedia’s distribution of the image is affecting his ability to make a living from his work. He incurred costs of several thousands of pounds to arrange the photo shoot, which required the use of his own expensive equipment.

Also prohibited under the new US copyright rules would be “a mural painted by an elephant” or “a claim based on the appearance of actual animal skin”.

Despite the bans on works created by gods and ghosts, the Office may register a work where the application states that the work was “inspired by a divine spirit”, it says.

The update will “set the stage for a number of long-term improvements in the area of registration” of copyright, claims the Office. It is described as a “comprehensive overhaul that makes the practices and standards of the Office more timely and transparent”.

The draft will remain on review until it takes official effect some time around December 15 this year. The practices within it are not law, but do inform future legislation and set out how the Office makes internal decisions.

In the UK, under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, a photographer can claim rights over an image even if he or she did not press the shutter button if the results are their “intellectual creation” – for example, they came up with the concept of a monkey taking a “selfie”.

However, such a case has never been tried in court and the outcome would be uncertain.


Original story:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Local Matsuri, 2014 Edition

Despite periods of heavy rain and the usual hot/humid weather, the local summer festival was able to take place. Here are this year's offerings...

See last year's festival:

Visual Anthropology of Japan, Local Matsuri I: The Mikoshi, posted July 30, 2013.

Visual Anthropology of Japan, Local Matsuri II: Evening Activities, posted July 31, 2013.

Visual Anthropology of Japan, Local Matsuri III: Tamago Senbei, posted August 1, 2013.

Visual Anthropology of Japan, Local Matsuri IV: People, posted August 2, 2013.

Visual Anthropology of Japan, Local Matsuri V: くわしく, posted August 3, 2013.